I’m packing for a camping trip, after packing for a flight recently, and I have realized something:
I’ve forgotten how to go places.
I had a feeling I was forgetting something as I packed for my trip, even though I wound up bringing 100 pounds of gear. It turned out I was. I had to buy a new charger for my Apple Watch, and NOW I HAVE FOUR because I keep doing this. At this rate I’m going to have to start duct-taping one to my forehead.
Now, as I put together my camping gear, I’m realizing that I am going to blow it in some unspecified way.
I’ve spent literally months of my life camping. It has not been uncommon for me to spend three weeks at a stretch living in a tent. This is something that I know how to do.
Or at least I used to.
The reason I’m talking about all this is not because I live to embarrass myself. It is to encourage everyone who is making adventurous plans for the summer - pause and do some visualization and try to put yourself back in that frame of mind.
Otherwise you’re going to forget half your stuff, just like me.
I started digging stuff out of my pack, including the stuff that normally just stays in the pockets.
That’s how I discovered that there are no batteries in my head lamp.
This is very fortunate. I would much rather find that out in a carpeted suburban bedroom than up on the mountain while trying to pitch my tent in the dark.
(Not that I can’t pitch a tent in the dark, because I definitely can!)
I started doing my visualization. Then I realized that I hadn’t brought the solar backup battery. I don’t think I even opened that box, because if I’d seen it in our gear tub I’m sure I would have remembered it.
Then I realized that I hadn’t packed any sunblock or insect repellent.
There is time to rectify all these issues. That’s why it always pays to go over your gear days in advance. It doesn’t guarantee that you will remember every single thing, of course - just that you’ll patch more of the holes in your mental rowboat.
(Okay, maybe I have a mental rowboat. Maybe yours is a yacht or an aircraft carrier - or maybe you’re just a little dinghy? Hahahaha)
The thing about forgetting gear is that you can often replace it at a store on the way to your destination. But other times - you can’t. Sometimes the thing you want isn’t in stock anywhere in the region, and ask me about the time we had to forfeit the fuel for our camp stove in Madrid and then had no way to heat our food for the next week.
The other reasons you want to avoid shopping trips for replacement gear are the time it takes out of your schedule, the escalated price of the items, and the chance that the store is out of stock on your particular size.
Can I imagine a store with no AAA batteries, no bug spray, and/or no sunblock? Of course I can.
There are two ways to go about making a good packing list. One is to find a checklist that someone else has put together. That can be really helpful, especially if you’re going somewhere you haven’t been before. For instance, I don’t have much experience with camping in the desert, so I would do a little research before I went on a trip like that, even assuming I went with an expert.
In my personal experience, camping and traveling with laid-back, inexperienced people does not bring more fun and whimsy to the trip. It brings chaos and mayhem and crying in the road.
*I* will be that laid-back person, thank you very much! The one who forgot my batteries and won’t go anywhere without 3 pounds of highly unnecessary electronics.
Okay, so there are two ways to do your travel visualization. One is to imagine yourself going through your travel day, your bedtime routine, and then your wake-up routine. The other is to do memory recall of your worst travel experiences - worst sunburns, worst bug bites, etc - and those of anyone else you know.
I can tell you right now, we have always brought our backpacking first aid kit and we have always used it, even on an overnight. I’ve also used every element of repair items, from Tenacious Tape to the sewing kit. While it’s possible to fix things with string and twigs, I’d rather not if I don’t have to.
I was reading earlier about bird migration. There are two types of migrants, obligate and facultative. Facultative migrants make shorter, more local trips, so they can wait depending on the weather and availability of certain foods. Obligate migrants are going so far that they can’t predict conditions, so they just have to be ready for anything.
As we are not birds, and we expect certain things out of life like shoes and beds and hot meals, we must therefore pack like the obligate migrant and retain the flexible mindset of the facultative migrant.
When I do my chaos and mayhem visualization, I imagine all the wild stuff. Torn ligaments and large wounds and compound fractures and bear attacks - fortunately only from the literature - and lost shoes and broken phones and raccoons tearing up the food stores.
Raccoons! Have torn up both my groceries and my tent at one time or another.
When I do my routine visualization, I picture myself getting ready for bed. I pitch my tent. I lay out my bedding. I sent up my solar lantern and my toothbrush. I sleep. I get up in the morning and put on clothes and shoes. These things all sound simple to the point of boredom.
The important thing is that those routines involve almost every single item anyone would need on a trip.
Always remember that what you are bringing on the trip is you. The only point of leaving your house at all is to either spend time with people or experience things that you cannot experience at home. Your stuff should exist in service to your experiences and your relationships. Just like it does at home.
Bring only what you need to have the best time possible, and remember, somehow you have survived despite every item you have ever forgotten, broken, or lost. When the gear is gone the adventure remains.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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